2009.09.09: Dodd to stay as Banking chair

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Dodd to stay as Banking chair

Dodd to stay as Banking chair

Dodd has played stand-in for the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) for most of this year on the pivotal Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) panel during the health reform debate, raising questions about which role he might decide to play full-time after Kennedy's death. Now, Dodd has decided to stay put with the Banking Committee, two senate sources tell POLITICO. Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's.

Dodd to stay as Banking chair

Dodd to stay as Banking chair


9/8/09 6:59 PM EDT
Updated: 9/9/09 8:24 AM EDT

Sen. Christopher Dodd's expected announcement that he will remain in charge of the Banking Committee should give a big boost to his longtime colleague Tom Harkin while setting off a shuffle on other Senate panels.

Dodd has played stand-in for the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) for most of this year on the pivotal Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) panel during the health reform debate, raising questions about which role he might decide to play full-time after Kennedy's death. Now, Dodd has decided to stay put with the Banking Committee, two senate sources tell POLITICO.

Aside from Harkin, another potential winner from this round of musical chairmanships is Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) who may end up leapfrogging several more senior members of the Agriculture Committee to take over that panel – a move that could be key in persuading voters back home to send her back to Washington.

With Dodd staying put at Banking, Harkin would likely get the gavel on the HELP panel, which had been chaired by Kennedy, and thrust the liberal Iowa Democrat into the middle of the red-hot debate over health care reform.

Both Harkin and Dodd are strong supporters of the "public option" in health care legislation. But with Dodd in full reelection mode and worried about losing his seat in 2010, Harkin will likely be less impacted by political pressures to either cut a deal to pass something - or refuse to budge and please the left – as the chairman of HELP.

Harkin hasn't shown his hand yet, but many expect him to take HELP given that the Agriculture Committee passed a five-year farm bill last Congress.

Harkin's ascension at HELP, in turn, would open up the Agriculture Committee for a new chairman. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is next in seniority but he is already Judiciary chairman and is unlikely to give that post up.

Following Leahy on Agriculture are Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Conrad is chairman of the Budget Committee, and the wonkish North Dakota Democrat may not want to part with that gavel. Baucus, in turn, definitely won't give up the powerful Finance Committee.

All of which means Lincoln, who has suffered a slump in the polls along with President Obama and the whole Democratic Party over the last few months, would suddenly be wielding a major committee gavel in her 15th year in Congress.

Dodd's decision, though, could also be a blow to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who follows him in seniority on Banking. Despite health problems following a cerebral hemorrhage three years ago, Johnson was expected to chair the Banking panel if Dodd took over HELP. That would have given Johnson the lead role as the Senate undertakes a major rewrite of financial services laws this fall.

Consumer groups will likely breathe a sigh of relief with Dodd's decision to stay at Banking, something ironic given the past criticism that he has been too cozy with the financial services industry and the lobbyists who helped bankrolled his presidential campaign.

But advocates for strong consumer protections in the regulatory overhaul were worried by the prospect of Johnson wielding the gavel at Banking. Johnson is considered one of the financial services industry's biggest supporters, largely because of the large number of bank and credit card call centers located in South Dakota.

Johnson, in fact, was the only Democrat to vote against credit card legislation on the Senate floor, and only four Republicans joined him in opposition to the bill that Obama championed and signed into law.

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Headlines: September, 2009; RPCV Chris Dodd (Dominican Republic); Figures; Peace Corps Dominican Republic; Directory of Dominican Republic RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Dominican Republic RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Connecticut

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Story Source: Politico

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